Unless you live in France, where rolling out a throughout out design on mass has given them the lowest cost low carbon electricity in Europe for years. its only now that wind power is challenging it in terms of cost.When looking at Nuclear as a power source you have to look at the whole picture, not just the nice parts to get the true cost. To initially just build the cost are astronomic, just look at Hinkley C, quote.
"The group, which is financing the construction of the plant along with its junior partner CGN of China, said it expected the project in Somerset to cost up to £23bn compared with a 2019 estimate of a maximum of £22.5bn "
Then the runing cost , a high maintenance cost due to license compliance, site security and then decomisioning and of course the long term storage of spent fuel so it no longer paints such a rosy picture. Then what about what you cannot put a value on, people having to live with a potential like Fukushima on their doorstep so in reality it is like asbestos, a great idea at the time but should no longer be considered.
The UK is not such a pretty picture.
I visited Sellafield on business last year and was shocked to find that normal nuclear power makes next to no waste and the fuel is relatively easily re-processed. 98% of the problematic waste pile at Sellafield was from two main sources: 1, the rush to make the bomb in the 1950s - still a huge legacy to clean up. 2, the 1984 miners strike, when the CEGB (on instruction) ran the power stations flat out and made -off spec waste. Its still hanging around to this day. More waste was made that year than all the other years put together. A bit remains from various experimental reactors but modern reactors produce very little waste about 25tonnes a year per for a Gw reactor and about 1/3 of that is recycled.
Sellafield is a sombre place it contains our entire history of nuclear waste all in one place. However when you think about it, its all in one place. Whereas the waste from other industries is scattered everywhere. The ocean is full of plastic waste for example. If we scooped it all up and put it in one place it would fill Cumbria. Its this perspective that makes nuclear power less of a nonsensical option. The waste from the old wind turbines being decommissioned in Scotland is huge and if not done properly will also damage the environment, the carbon fibre, concrete, iron ore etc all do damage to the environment and damage our health. As is well known, coal fired power stations emit more Uranium in the fly ash than nuclear plants do.
There is no doubt that nuclear power and radioactivity are highly hazardous industries and need to be properly managed and regulated but our media get the risks out of proportion with scare stories. I'm not a particular fan of nuclear power, but I hate it when the media distorts the facts to make their arguments, so that we the public get misled and cant make rational decisions.
In our lifetime, 45% of our radiation dose comes from medical procedures, another 30% from natural radon and Thorium in the environment, the rest from natural foods including the highly toxic potassium 40 (in small quantities), our exposure from industrial nuclear, including accidents at Chernobyl, Windscreen, 3 mile, Fukushima is 0.1%, so it gets an unjustified bad press. Another example to put things in perspective is the BED this is the radioactivity in a banana equivalent! (from K40), people living in Fukushima were exposed to about 300 Bananas worth of radiation in the first year. And the journalists flying home from Tokyo got more radiation in the plane (much more cosmic radiation) than those on the ground!
Nuclear waste and the industry is a lot less hazardous than, things we accept everyday, the body is quite tolerant to small amounts of radioactivity in the environment, we have evolved to cope with the natural background radiation. Most emissions and leaks don't give off waste in a form that is readily ingested, which helps. That does not mean it isn't extremely hazardous but does explain why so few people have died or been maimed by radioactivity compared with say Asbestos, which incidentally is more toxic than plutonium.
Now for the cost, for years the UK industry (old CEGB) hid the true cost of nuclear power and allowed for some expensive glory projects such as fast reactors etc. That has now become much more transparent and on a proper commercial footing, which is why innovation and investment is focussing on SMRs or small reactors that can be build in a factory as opposed to the super large reactors like Hinkley point - a decision made is a rush in my view as the government had procrastinated for so long it risked putting the UK lights out.
Whilst Nuclear power has many downsides, its hazards and risks, it is highly likely to be part of the energy mix of the future for very rational reasons, it complements wind and solar power, is cleaner than coal and oil and is low carbon. Given the planet is threatened with climate change that will kill and wreck the lives of millions, governments will choose nuclear as one of the ways out of the current predicament they face.
Incidentally the green lobby used to say how Hinkley electric would cost £90 Mwh vs solar at 43.3p kwh solar feed in tariff (back in 2011). but that was deliberately mixing units, as £430.3 Mwh was the true comparison. Its now 5.3p or £53. Now that the costs have fallen they have stopped using this argument. The feed in tariff subsidy has cost about £8bn, probably necessary to get the industry stated. We pay it through the carbon tax on our bills.
We are hopefully far from the time in the 1950s where they were considering nuclear power for commercial shipping and even nuclear mining, but the sensible use of nuclear is rational when compared with all the other methods of generating energy and the huge risks we are taking with the environment that go unseen.